Editor’s note: A priority for Wells Fargo is helping our customers improve their financial health. And for many of the bank’s small business owners, their focus is on helping improve the physical health of their clients and communities. In the final installment of our “Healthy Living” series, we explore the story of KidsFit and how its products are helping school children get a head start on leading healthier lives.
When Ed Pinney created his Huger, South Carolina-based company, KidsFit, he initially focused on producing kid-sized exercise equipment for gyms and therapists. But as is often the case for many small businesses, he adapted to the market and began contacting local schools, making the case for introducing exercise and movement in a classroom setting.
“What I wanted to do was create a company that did something good. And I looked at all the things that were out there and that needed to be done, and one of the first things that came to mind was this obesity crisis that was happening with kids,” said Pinney. “I thought, ‘Maybe we can make a dent in that, maybe we can make a difference.’ So that’s how we started the company, but as it evolved it became much more than that, and Wells Fargo has helped us improve our financial wellness along the way.”
KidsFit began producing a line of classroom-oriented exercise equipment, along with a training program, sending representatives to schools and hosting special seminars on the research behind movement-based learning activities in classrooms.
Today, KidsFit has developed more than 200 different types of fitness products for children, including kinesthetic classroom furniture and action-based learning labs where students are able to learn school lessons while staying active.
“By sticking close to our mission, KidsFit has become the country’s leading developer and manufacturer of youth fitness equipment,” said Pinney. “We are proud to be a ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ manufacturer, which allows our team to continually develop new products and transform to meet the needs of children here and across the world.”
Pepperhill Elementary School in Charleston, South Carolina, recently installed a KidsFit action-based learning lab, which gets students out of their seats to practice their counting on a wall-mounted “High Five Jungle” poster and spell out words at the letter learning station. The school’s principal, Tanya Underwood, said the students and teachers agree the introduction of physical movement in the classroom is having a positive impact on learning.
“Students can get on exercise equipment and do different activities to raise their heart rate while they’re learning academic concepts,” Underwood said. “And that is so important to students because brain research tells us that students who have their heart rate increased while they’re learning will retain that information more — the engagement’s higher, and it makes learning just lots of fun.”
With success came the need for financial guidance
After years of hard work, Pinney realized he had something special in the concept of classroom-focused exercise equipment and tools.
“We began seeing a need for movement in the classroom, so we built all the equipment, and everything we did was based on that science that says there is a direct correlation between a healthy child and a smart child,” said Pinney.
As KidsFit products began to gain traction and sales grew — 40 percent in 2014 and then 60 percent in 2015 — Pinney turned to Wells Fargo for assistance in managing his business’s quickly expanding financial needs.
“When I first started working with Ed, he was using his personal credit card for his business expenses, and as a smaller company, there was a time when that worked for him,” said Amber Sisley of Wells Fargo Regional Business Banking. “But his business had grown very quickly and there were products and services out there that Ed didn’t even know could help him. So by reviewing his accounts, listening to his needs, and examining his financials, we worked hand-in-hand to grow his business and to create a solid relationship here at Wells Fargo.”
Along with getting Pinney and his team business elite credit cards and other treasury management services, Wells Fargo also worked with KidsFit to finance a large-format flatbed printing system. The new printing system has allowed Pinney to expand his learning lab offerings, creating large, interactive posters and floor mats that give school administrators more options for products that work with their education curriculum.
“When I reached out to Amber about the new printer, it was really a stretch for us — it was the most expensive piece of equipment we’d ever decided to buy — and we needed to know, ‘Should we make this purchase, are we moving in the right direction?’ We just weren’t sure, but we knew it had potential,” recalled Pinney. “By her being able to structure a lease agreement and showing us the numbers, we saw that we could ease into the purchase and make it work. It ended up being one of the best decisions and has really expanded our business.”
Now, with its new printer producing KidsFit’s latest learning posters and tools to help children in schools across the country get healthier and smarter, Pinney knows he’s reached that original goal for the company — to do something good.
“It’s just been really cool to see this whole thing evolve and see us grow from a tiny little dream — one guy trying to make this happen — to a thriving business,” he said. “Now I have a team of people, including our employees, our customers, and our bankers, who are all so passionate about our mission too.”
* All financing is subject to final credit approval. Member FDIC.